The History of Rowleys Wholesale – 100 Years and Counting

The history of Rowleys Wholesale dates back to 1921. The company’s founder, Art Rowley, started in business by vulcanizing inner tubes in the basement of his home.  Within 2 years Art and his brother Sam opened the first “Rowley Brothers” gasoline station. 

Much of the early history of the company includes being a tire, oil, and gasoline retailer—as well as a wholesale distributor. Art Rowley continued the growth of Rowley Wholesale by adding a new warehouse in 1947. Art’s two sons both became active in the business (Paul in 1949 and Jim in 1957).

The gasoline operations, in addition to fuel oil routes, were sold off in the 1960s. Paul Rowley’s eldest son, Keith, joined the company full time in the mid-1970s; and Paul’s youngest son, Mike, has been full time with the company since 1983.  

In 1987 Paul and Jim moved the wholesale operations division and split the automobile service business into a separate family owned business.  Rowleys Tires and Automotive Services are still community driven repair facilities in the Bay City and Lapeer areas. From 1980 to 1999 the Rowleys Wholesale team began to grow the physical warehousing available to store products. The ever growing operations help facilitate the best on hand inventory and top of the line service professionals.

In August of 2008, the company purchased the assets of Tri-Penn Oil Corporation. Distribution continues to expand in southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio. The team at our Southgate, Michigan office brought an existing knowledge of our industry and a new look at how we could again improve our offerings.  Rowleys Wholesale also expanded community involvement from not only the Tri-City region of Bay City Michigan to the Metro Detroit area surrounding the Southgate, Michigan facility.  

In February of 2013, the company purchased the lubricants division of Free Enterprises in Medina, Ohio. This expanded distribution to the northeast Ohio market.  Once again, Rowleys Wholesale was able to continue servicing our new customers with the same staff and quality that they were accustomed too.  This expansion and the additional warehousing available continue to secure our position as a One Stop Shopping distributor.  

Rowleys Wholesale is proud of its history and the fact that it has represented some product lines for over eighty years.  Today we are a distributor of automotive and industrial lubricants, tires, equipment, car wash chemicals, janitorial supplies and a wide variety of other products.  We provide delivery to Lower Michigan, the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula, northeast Indiana, and northern Ohio.

2021 marks our historic 100th year in business. With our eye on the future, we can’t help but to reminisce about our past. The path to our centennial has included many outstanding employees, vendors, partners, and our amazing customers; always pushing us to be better, more efficient, faster, and the best price in town. When asked what the secret is, we feel it’s perseverance and caring for our customers and employees. We thank you for joining our 100th year. We can’t wait to continue growing our businesses together!

100 Years Since 1921
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Bay City Historical Society